To maximize occupant safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the BMW i3 have pretensioners to eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision. The Fiat 500e doesn’t offer pretensioners.
The i3 offers optional crash mitigation brakes, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The 500e doesn't offer collision warning or crash mitigation brakes.
The i3 has standard Park Distance Control to help warn the driver about vehicles, pedestrians or other obstacles behind or in front of their vehicle. The 500e doesn’t offer a front parking aid.
The i3 has standard BMW Assist, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to remotely unlock your doors if you lock your keys in, help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The 500e doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.
Both the i3 and the 500e have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, traction control and electronic stability systems to prevent skidding.
The i3’s corrosion warranty is 7 years and unlimited miles longer than the 500e’s (12/unlimited vs. 5/50,000).
BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the i3 for 4 years and 50,000 miles. BMW will pay for oil changes, tire rotation, lubrication and any other scheduled maintenance. Fiat doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the 500e.
There are over 2 times as many BMW dealers as there are Fiat dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the i3’s warranty.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2013 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that BMW vehicles are better in initial quality than Fiat vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 18th in initial quality. With 40 more problems per 100 vehicles, Fiat is ranked 32nd.
The i3’s electric motor produces 59 more horsepower (170 vs. 111) and 37 lbs.-ft. more torque (184 vs. 147) than the 500e’s electric motor.
On the EPA test cycle the i3 gets better fuel mileage on its electric motor alone than the 500e (137 city/111 hwy vs. 122 city/108 hwy MPGe).
The i3’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the 500e are solid, not vented.
For better ride, handling and brake cooling the i3 has standard 19-inch wheels. Only 15-inch wheels are available on the 500e. The i3 offers optional 20-inch wheels.
The BMW i3’s wheels have 5 lugs for longer wheel bearing life, less chance of rotor warping and greater strength. The Fiat 500e only has 4 wheel lugs per wheel.
For superior ride and handling, the BMW i3 has fully independent front and rear suspensions. An independent suspension allows the wheels to follow the road at the best angle for gripping the pavement, without compromising ride comfort. The 500e has a rear torsion beam axle, with a semi-independent rear suspension.
For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the i3’s wheelbase is 10.6 inches longer than on the 500e (101.2 inches vs. 90.6 inches).
For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the i3 is 6.4 inches wider in the front and 7 inches wider in the rear than on the 500e.
The BMW i3 may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 100 to 350 pounds less than the Fiat 500e.
The i3 has .7 inches more front headroom, 5.4 inches more front shoulder room, 1.7 inches more rear headroom and 4 inches more rear shoulder room than the 500e.
To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the i3 has a telescoping steering wheel. Much better than just a tilt steering wheel or adjustable seat, this allows a short driver to sit further from the steering wheel while maintaining contact with the pedals. The 500e doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel.
The i3’s front power windows open or close with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside of the car. The 500e’s power windows’ switches have to be held the entire time to close them fully.
The i3’s standard power window controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The 500e’s available power window controls are spread out on the center console where they can’t be seen without the driver completely removing his eyes from the road.
Comfort Access optional on the i3 allows you to unlock the driver’s door, trunk and start the engine all without removing a key from pocket or purse. This eliminates searching for keys before loading groceries, getting in the vehicle in bad weather or making a hurried start to your trip. The Fiat 500e doesn’t offer an advanced key system.
The i3 has two rear doors to provide better access for cargo and rear passengers. The 500e doesn’t offer rear doors.
The i3’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The 500e’s intermittent wipers change speed with vehicle speed, but can’t turn on and off or change speed based on changing rainfall.
The i3 has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The 500e doesn’t offer automatic headlights.
To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the i3 has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The 500e doesn’t offer cornering lights.
The i3 has standard automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The 500e has an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.
To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the i3 offers an optional adaptive cruise control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The 500e doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.
Optional BMW Apps for the i3 allows the driver and passengers access to select programs on their smartphones, including reading text messages aloud, playing internet radio stations, tagging songs to buy them later, following twitter accounts and other connected activities without taking their eyes off the road or their hands from the wheel. The 500e doesn’t offer factory integrated smartphone program access.
The i3’s standard GPS navigation system offers a real-time traffic update feature that offers alternative routes to automatically bypass traffic problems. (Service available in a limited number of metro areas.) The 500e’s navigation system doesn’t offer real-time traffic updates.